COVID-19 and Elections: The Case of 2020 General Elections in Ghana
Principal Investigators: Emmanuel Ayifah and Rebecca Nana Yaa Ayifah
The current covid-19 pandemic has undoubtedly had significant adverse effect on world democracies, especially elections scheduled this year, 2020. Per constitutional requirement, Ghana’s to have presidential and parliamentary elections were held on 7th December, 2020 amidst the covid-19 pandemic. Using quantitative data, we investigate how the COVID-19 pandemic affects the administration, participation, and outcome of Ghana’s 2020 elections In particular the study focuses, on perception of voters towards elections in the midst of COVID-19 pandemic, voter behavior and preferences, to what extent does covid-19 affect voter turnout rate and whether elections sparks covid-19 outbreaks in Ghana.
The current COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly had a significant adverse effect on world democracies, especially scheduled elections in 2020. In order to protect the general public from spreading the virus during electioneering activities, there were calls for countries to either re-schedule initially planned elections, or consider alternative voting processes and procedures. While some countries did postpone their elections, others, including Ghana went ahead with their elections. Per constitutional requirement, Ghana’s general elections (presidential and parliamentary) were held on 7th December 2020. Did the COVID-19 pandemic have any effect on the administration, participation, and outcome of Ghana’s 2020 elections? Before every election, voter registration is carried out to give first-time voters the chance to register and also those who have lost their voter ID cards to get replacements. However, there were varied opinions among the citizenry as to whether the EC should cancel entirely or postpone the voter registration exercise, and subsequently the entire election, due to fear of exposing people to the COVID-19 pandemic. Also, there were concerns that even if the EC goes ahead with the voter registration and subsequently the elections, voter turnout was going to be low, because of the pandemic. Again, political party campaigns in Ghana are characterized by large rallies with person-to-person contact, and thus, raising concerns about the likelihood of COVID-19 cases increasing due to election-related activities (voters and election officials are at high risk of exposure to COVID-19). Consequently, a section of the populace called for a rescheduling of the election. Against this background, the proposed research seeks to investigate the perception, behaviour, and preference of voters towards elections in the midst of COVID-19 pandemic; as well as the extent to which COVID-19 affected voter registration and election turnout rates.
We will estimate the effect of COVID-19 related factors on voters’ perception, behavior and preference before the 2020 election. Perception is measured as a binary variable which is 1 if an electorate agrees that the 2020 election be postponed and 0 if he/she disagrees. Behaviour is measured by a dummy which is 1 if an electorate will go out to register or 0 otherwise. Preference is measured in two ways: (1) whether an electorate supports the compilation of a new voter register amid the COVID-19 pandemic or not? (2) How likely measures put in place by the incumbent government to contain the spread and mitigate the adverse effect of COVID-19 pandemic influence voter decisions/preferences
COVID-19 (this is the main independent variable of interest) includes:
- Knowledge of anyone who has tested for COVID-19 and results, self-tested for COVID-19 and the results, diagnosed with underlying medical conditions, and dissatisfaction with measures by the government to contain the spread of COVID-19.
- Individual and district characteristics such as age, gender, education level, first-time voter and whether voted in the previous election; as well as the regional location of a respondent will be included.
Outcome variables are:
- Per constituency total number of persons registered during the 2012 and 2020 voter registration exercise.
- Per constituency total (valid) vote cast in the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections.
- COVID-19 related factors negatively affect voters’ perception, behaviour, and preference before the 2020 election.
- COVID-19 reduced voters’ registration turnout.
- COVID-19 reduced election or voter turnout.
- The number of registered voters for the 2020 election increased significantly due to the COVID-19 lockdown, as registered voters in the lockdown constituencies were statistically more than those in non-lockdown constituencies.
- The 2020 national election witnessed a reduction in turnout rates of between 3 to 4 percentage points due to the COVID-19 lockdown.
- No incumbency advantage or disadvantage in the election because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but it increased the vote share of the main opposition party by about 3 percentage points.
- During health pandemics like COVID-19 where social distancing is critical to contain the spread, there is a need for implementation of other voting methods that do involve lesser social interactions including early voting, increasing the number of pooling stations/voting centres, electronic voting, and vote-by-mail. The use of these methods will reduce the fear of the possibility of being infected, and thus, encourage more people to vote.
- Responses by political parties to health pandemics such as COVID-19 are very important not only for the economic welfare of the citizens but also for the electoral fortune of these parties.
Watch Emmanuel Ayifah and Rebecca Nana Yaa Ayifah present the findings of their project: